SCSU world language professor exposes hiring discrimination

Taylor Nicole Richards – News Writer

Virginia Santos recently filed a discrimination complaint to the Connecticut Human Rights Commission regarding her treatment in the World Languages department. Santos came to Southern in the Fall of 2010 and has 20 years of teaching experience at NYU, Yale, Wesleyan, and other universities. She is claiming discrimination for being a woman on three levels of hiring at Southern: tenure-track assistant professor, visiting assistant professor and adjunct professor.

“There is favoritism in the hiring process. In general, young, male professors are hired for their looks,” said Santos. “There is a hostile working environment for women [in the World Languages department].”

In 2011, 2013, and 2015, there were openings for tenure-track positions that Santos applied for. In 2011, Santos was not chosen for the position, but a young male was. According to the documents filed in her complaint and from Santos herself, the new professor hired chosen had a “clear chemistry” with the professor who hired him and were “arm in arm in the corridors.”

In March of 2011, Santos complained to the dean of arts and sciences after the next professor chosen for tenure-track in her department had less qualifications than her, the same professor that was close to the senior professor. Santos’ resume shows that she has a Ph.D in Spanish Literature, multiple scholarly publications, wrote two books, three articles, and taught at seven different universities. The dean did not respond. She was never chosen for any of the tenure-track positions.

“Speaking a language does not qualify a person to teach it, not at the secondary education level, much less at the higher education level,” said Santos. “When the person in charge of hiring is consistently selecting under-qualified instructors over the qualified ones, the hiring person at the University is engaging in fraud, and shortchanging the students, the state, the taxpayer, and the country.”

Santos is also claiming discrimination for the visiting assistant professor position. She was given the position for one semester, but two different professors, who both came to Southern after her, received many more semesters as a visiting professor. The most recent time a visiting professor was hired, the position was not announced. It was given for a year and a half to another young male favored by the professor doing the hiring. In December 2015, there was an opening for tenure-track position that was announced as needing someone specializing in Central American research. Santos said the department didn’t need someone with that specialization at the time, and the opening was catered to the most recent professor hired since it is where he’s from.

Lastly, Santos claimed discrimination as an adjunct professor. According to her documents, she was frequently given classes that were under-enrolled last minute that would consistently get cancelled.

“I am more qualified than 98 percent of the people teaching as adjuncts,” said Santos. “Many are full-time teachers or are from other specializations such as architecture or business.”

Eino Sierpe, associate professor of information and library science, said that there is a “colossal failure of leadership” within her department. Whenever there was tenure-track position openings, there was an announcement by law, but the rest of the search processes were “kept out the public eye as much as possible.”

“Typically, you expect those positions to be widely publicized. They’re supposed to engage with the community in what’s supposed to be an open hiring process,” said Sierpe. “The lack of transparency feeds into this culture of corruption.”

Santos said that since Southern is a public institution, equal opportunity should be given to everybody. She was not given any classes this semester or last semester.

Resha Cardone, department chair of World Languages, as well as Patrick Dilger, Director of Public Affairs, both said they have no comment.


Photo Credit: Derek Torrellas


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